In a shocking incident during a Turkish top-flight match on Monday, MKE Ankaragucu president Faruk Koca physically assaulted match official Halil Umut Meler after his team conceded a late equalizer in a 1-1 draw against Caykur Rizespor.
The referee, Meler, was punched to the ground, and subsequent blows from others caused injuries, including a swollen eye and a minor fracture. Koca, who was arrested on Tuesday, later resigned as club president and issued an apology, expressing "great embarrassment" for the "grave incident" he caused. The assault led to chaotic scenes involving players and club officials, resulting in the suspension of all league football.
Despite the injuries sustained by Meler, the chief of medicine at Acibadem Hospital, Mehmet Yorubulut, reported that the referee is in "good condition." Turkey's Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc confirmed Koca's arrest and stated that two others had also been arrested, with a judicial control decision imposed on three additional suspects. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed his dismay over the incident, stating it had "saddened and disturbed" him, and he personally spoke to Meler during his hospitalization.
The Turkish Football Federation condemned the attack, vowing to punish Ankaragucu, its chairman, club officials, and all those involved in assaulting the referee "in the strongest terms possible." FIFA president Gianni Infantino also denounced the incident, emphasizing that violence has "no place in our sport or society."
Meler, a prominent 37-year-old referee in Turkey, holds positions on FIFA's international referee list and UEFA's elite referee list, officiating in various high-profile competitions, including Europa Conference League and Champions League matches.